The Student News Site of Pinewood School

The Perennial

The Perennial

The Perennial

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The American Loneliness Epidemic: How the Internet Has Affected The Youth

Colin Ternus

   Lonely. I could not reach out. That’s how I, and many Americans, felt during the pandemic. However, this feeling of loneliness did not begin with the pandemic. In one study by Dr. Lempinen, 20% of eight-year-olds reported feeling chronically lonely. According to a meta-Gallup poll earlier this year, nearly one in four adults feels lonely. Loneliness has both severe mental and physical consequences for those who suffer, and it’s on the rise, especially in the younger age range, like those of the students at Pinewood.

   The Centers for Disease Control released a report that revealed that social isolation was associated with a significantly increased risk of dementia. In addition, a report by Dr. Bueker that looked at loneliness over the years found significant increases in loneliness from 1976 to the present day. This paints a gloomy picture. Globalization and social media are the most noticeable changes that have taken place in the last 30 years. Individuals are pulled apart as the United States and the rest of the world find themselves more connected.

   We are slowly killing ourselves by increasing the risk of disease. Loneliness is a nearly invisible thing, and, especially as a teenager, making friends is something I have time for. The Pinewood community supports me. I can enjoy dinner with friends and expand my relationships beyond Pinewood. But, as I head into adulthood, I worry that work will prevent my hopes of making friends. Building a community is difficult when you are building your life. Stephanie Fugita, the director of Upper Campus Counseling, has reservations about Pinewood’s loneliness.

   “Pinewood is a small community, so there are people you can connect with, but if you are unable to connect, then it is difficult to branch out,” Fugita said. “I have helped many people that feel that they can not connect well at Pinewood or do not feel close bonds with others.”

   Pinewood, and high schools in general, provide excellent opportunities for friends, as school is where peers come face to face daily and are pushed together by group projects, lunch, and various other school activities. Making friends is a natural part of the high school experience. Pinewood, however, is a small school, and being unable to connect with your group of people can make it challenging to branch out because of its isolated nature. The class of 2024, for example, had many people leave for various reasons. One important reason was a sense of isolation and a lack of connection within their class. Because of the limited pool of available connections, students who did not have enough in common with other students to build bonds were left out of the group dynamic. This contributed to a culling of the class size.

   The future might bode well. It might not. But no matter how much social media and the modern landscape of America might affect us, we can all work together simply by reaching out.

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